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Shirt color and protection from UVFeatured science projectScience project video

Abstract

We know that wearing dark colored clothing on a hot sunny day makes us feel warmer - this explains why light/pastel colors are popular choices for summer clothing. Does this however mean, that light colored clothing is more effective at blocking/preventing ultra violet radiation from reaching our skin? This science fair project was conducted to ascertain the effectiveness of different colored clothing in blocking out ultraviolet radiation. The science project involved using black, blue, red and yellow cotton cloth.

Hypothesis

Light colored clothing will provide better protection from UV light.

Scientific Terms

Ultraviolet radiation, electromagnetic wave, organisms, wavelength

Background

Ultraviolet radiation

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum of light that travels to earth from the sun. In the spectrum, it falls between visible light and X-rays. UV light falls at the blue end of the light spectrum and cannot be seen by the naked eye. It contains a higher energy level and shorter wavelength compared to visible light. Based on its effect on living organisms, UV light is classified in three categories - namely UVA, UVB and UVC.

  1. UVA with a wavelength of between 315nm and 400nm is capable of penetrating our skin and accelerate skin aging. Our skin is able to tolerate normal levels of UVA radiation.
  2. UVB with a wavelength of between 280nm and 315nm does not penetrate very deep into our skin, but carries a higher amount energy. Only a small amount of UVB is able to penetrate the ozone layer and reach the earth surface. UVB causes a burning sensation when in contact directly with the skin.
  3. UVC with a wavelength of between 240nm and 280nm has even higher amounts of energy but it is immediately lost upon contact with a surface. UVC is the most harmful type of UV light to all living organisms including humans. It is used to kill microbes in germicidal applications. Almost all of the UVC from the sun, is prevented from reaching the earth's surface by our atmosphere.

UV levels are normally at their highest around 10:00 am to 2:00 pm everyday. One of the most convenient ways of measuring UV levels is the UV index. Each unit of the UV index represents about 25mW per square meter of UV radiation. The UV index is a very useful way of providing information to the public regarding daily UV exposure levels

The UV index range is described as follows:

Less than 3: Moderate levels

Between 3 and 6: High levels - enough to cause sunburn even at temperatures below 27 degrees Celsius

Between 7 and 9: Very high levels - enough to cause sunburn on cloudy days

More than 9: Extreme levels - that cause sunburn to an unprotected skin within 12 minutes.

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Complexity level:
9
Project cost ($):
60
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 1 day for the science project experiment
Material availability:
Easily found
Safety concerns:

Avoid long exposure to strong sunlight. Wear protective clothing and eyewear.